Following the disappearance of his parents, 11-year-old Toby is passed from relative to relative before landing with his uncle Gabriel, a master detective.
The citizens of Colebridge love sleuthing, but the high concentration of detectives has made criminal behavior scarce. None feel it as keenly as the residents of Detectives’ Row. When a letter arrives for Uncle Gabriel inviting him to a competition that will grant the title of World’s Greatest Detective and $10,000 to the detective who can solve a crime, Toby thinks that Uncle Gabriel should accept. The title would mean an uptick in business. The money would soothe Toby’s fears that Uncle Gabriel, unable to afford to keep him, might pass him off to the orphanage. But his uncle rejects the invitation, forcing Toby to take matters into his own hands. Thankfully he is already training to become a detective. However, a startling discovery puts even that in doubt. Toby is a perfectly likable and flawed hero, and his inner monologues are engaging and amusing. Uncle Gabriel, with his poor culinary skills and kind heart, make him the perfect literary guardian. And the evidently largely white community of early-20th-century Colebridge is an appealingly eccentric one. But the simplistic mystery, undeveloped secondary characters, and plodding pacing need further investigation.
A whodunit that fails to intrigue. (Mystery. 8-12)